BROKEN ON ALL SIDES: Race, mass incarceration & new visions for criminal justice in the U.S.

Date: 12 September 2012, Wednesday
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: 107 English-Philosophy Building, University of Iowa

“In the United States of America today there are more African Americans in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the civil war began. The prison population has exploded by 500% since the end of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. America locks up more of its racial and ethnic minorities than any other country (including South Africa at the height of apartheid).

If you want to understand this tragic problem, and explore ways to overcome it, you need to see Broken On All Sides.

Made on a shoestring budget, this “on the ground” documentary centers around Michelle Alexander’s theory in her groundbreaking book, “The New Jim Crow.” In the contemporary context, the mass incarceration of Blacks and other minorities is the result of the rise of the War on Drugs and “tough on crime” policies that were reactions to the civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s and 70s, It has happened because discretion within the system allows for targeting people of color at disproportionately high rates, and because collateral consequences of criminal records allow for legalized discrimination in nearly every aspect of citizenship. Mass incarceration has emerged as America’s new caste system. The movie dissects “get tough” rhetoric and crime policies, illustrates how the emerging Occupy movement offers hope for change, and explores possible reforms and solutions to ending mass incarceration and this new racial caste system.

Jim Crow was crushed by a multi-racial movement led by African Americans themselves, which took on the courts, politicians, and social relations in society. But almost every form of discrimination against African Americans that was defeated by the Civil Rights Movement is today alive and perfectly legal when applied to “criminals.” The problem is that through conscious and unconscious choices, with the approval of politicians and the Supreme Court, black Americans have been targeted at significantly higher rates for stops & frisks, arrests, prosecution, and harsher sentences. So, where does this leave criminal justice?

With Philadelphia as the entry point, in Broken On All Sides you’ll meet individuals whose perspectives represent many angles of the system, and you’ll be presented with a historical narrative you don’t often hear about prisons and crime. You’ll hear Nate Hayes describe the conditions inside Philadelphia’s jails, and how he and his family dealt with his incarceration. You’ll see life from “behind the wall” through the dozens of breathtaking drawings by Leonard C. Jefferson, an inmate at the State Correctional Institute in Albion, PA. A judge, activists, and religious leaders will tell you how they are grappling with this problem. You will see how mass incarceration is so much bigger than caging human beings– that it brands a growing number of Americans with permanent 2nd class citizenship, and is tied to the lack of resources, jobs, and safety in the communities from where the prisoners and convicted come.

Come to this movie with a sense that something is wrong with social priorities in the U.S. Walk out understanding the most important civil and human rights issue in America today and ways to change it.

Directed & Produced by: Matthew Pillischer
Released: 2012
Running Time: 68 min

Click here for poster in PDF format.